Former Home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee Undergoes Meaningful Renovation to Highlight Lives of Slaves Who Worked There

The Virginia plantation and former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. has reopened after a complete rehabilitation with a renewed focus on the stories of the 100 people who were enslaved there, according to the National Park Service.

The home, Arlington House, reopened earlier this week with a brand-new visitor experience that aims to tell the stories of the slaves who were forced to work on the plantation as well as the infamous family who lived there.

“The reopening of Arlington House provides a place for hard and important conversations that illuminate more perspectives, including the experiences of enslaved people and their descendants,” Will Shafroth, the president and CEO of the National Park Foundation, said in a statement, adding the project restored “the plantation house and enslaved people’s living quarters and created new educational exhibits, inspiring people to reflect on the realities of our past, consider how it informs where we are today, and work together to create a more just and equitable future.”

The home sits in McLean, Va., just outside of Washington D.C., and stands as the The Robert E. Lee Memorial.

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It was originally constructed between 1802 and 1818 as a home and memorial to George Washington, according to the NPS. The home then became the Lee family residence prior to the Civil War before it was seized by the Union Army. The plantation was eventually turned into the Arlington National Cemetery.

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Over the course of 60 years leading up to the Civil War, at least 100 African American people were enslaved at Arlington House, forced to build roads, cabins, grow crops, and oversee the home. In 1863, the federal government created Freedman’s Village on the land surrounding Arlington House and thousands of former slaves established a community on what was once the plantation.

As part of the restoration project, which started in 2018, curators restored more than 1,000 historic objects and acquired 1,300 antiques or reproductions, according to the NPS. Several of these items are “associated with African American history which will be displayed for the first time.”

Additionally, the NPS worked to restore the building’s foundation, exterior finishes and hardware, and updated the historic grounds and kitchen gardens to make them more accessible.

Visitors to Arlington House must obtain a timed ticket to enter the plantation house. A ticket is not required to visit the museum, north and south slave quarters, the grounds, or the gardens.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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